Friday Full-Length: Dream Phases, Helen Highway b/w Tandy

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’ll be honest with you. I had something else all set up and ready to roll out to close the week. The back end of the post was all set, player embedded, tags made, image placed, metadata, all that stuff that I do on my side of what goes up here except for the actual writing, and then I stumbled on Dream Phases’ Bandcamp page, heard the just-over-five-minute two-songer Helen Highway b/w Tandy and decided it suited my mood more. Nothing against the record that was going to close out before — I’ll probably save the post for next week, actually — it’s an album I’ve loved for a long time and very much enjoyed revisiting, but it turned out I wasn’t feeling so academic this morning adn I’m digging the float and classic ’60s psych vibe of “Helen Highway” and “Tandy” and I’d never heard Dream Phases before, so yeah. There’s precedent I’m pretty sure for pushing something off like this last-minute — not that anyone but me cares — but either way, whatever.

Dream Phases come from L.A. and released the single last Fall through Hypnotic Bridge Records. It’s two songs, melodic like a bastard and dream-toned to suit. The band have two full-lengths, other singles and an EP up on their Bandcamp, which is here: https://dreamphases.bandcamp.com/

If you need more than that and the audio to go on, frankly I’m not sure why.

This morning I slept until just before 8AM. I don’t remember the last time that happened, but when my alarm went off at 5:30, I asked The Patient Mrs. if she minded if I slept late and she said no and so I did. I’m pretty sure I was asleep before 9PM last night, so that makes me… well… rested…? It is a strange feeling. I think another month or two of it and I’d almost be human.dream phases helen highway bw tandy

Nah, probably not.

This week was a lot of back and forth and it’s not really over as I type this. I took my laptop in for repair again yesterday to have a new hard-drive put in — 2TB as opposed to the 500GB I got back last time, which I’m sorry isn’t nearly enough for me to work with on a daily basis — and this weekend I’ll get on porting over data from one to the other. Many, many albums, pictures of The Pecan, Star Trek ebooks, the like. There’s a lot that needs to be reinstalled — Office, PhotoShop — and I’ve got my work cut out for me in readjusting Windows settings to how I prefer them vis a vis getting rid of extraneous bundled software and notifications, but that stuff I can do gradually as the annoyances pop up. In terms of laptop infrastructure, I’m hopefully good to go for a while.

The Pecan is getting a haircut at the moment, in a kid salon, and that’s something of an adventure. The Patient Mrs. brought him on her own last time. He said this morning he didn’t want me to come, because that’s kind of his general position on anything these days, but he seems to have forgotten about that, so here I am. Thomas The Tank Engine is on. It’s a rich town. A gathering of bikes at Starbucks across the way. Luxury condos. Surreal to think the world’s ending.

Next week is next week. I’m still confirming stuff for Monday but there’s no day that doesn’t have something booked. Some of that is still overflow from the Quarterly Review. I was annoyed at myself this week. Hard. I had a review I wanted to do that I shoved off in favor of a premiere. Something I actively wanted to write about. That was kind of my favor to myself for making it through the QR that I then denied myself in favor of something else. And not that I didn’t want to do what I ended up doing — otherwise I wouldn’t have — but it was a question of treating myself or not. That kind of defined the early part of my week, to be honest. Then I got over it. And the band I did the premiere for seemed to appreciate it too, which was nice. I’ll still cover the other thing, just later. Not this coming week, but in August for sure.

New ‘Obelisk Show’ today 5PM Eastern on Gimme Metal. I almost got in trouble with the playlist because something I was playing wasn’t at all heavy. Rose City Band. Fair enough. Didn’t actually hear if they were canning the track. We’ll see, I guess.

Alright that’s enough out of me. Haircut’s done and it’s time to roll on to the next thing, uncertain though I am of what that is. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hydrate. Have fun. Watch your head. Please buy Obelisk merch. All that stuff.

Thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Paradise Lost, Alastor, Zahn, Greynbownes, Treebeard, Estrada Orchestra, Vestamaran, Low Flying Hawks, La Maquinaria del Sueño, Ananda Mida

Posted in Reviews on July 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

The days grow long, but the Quarterly Review presses onward. I didn’t know when I put this thing together that in addition to having had oral surgery on Monday — rod in for a dental implant, needs a crown after it heals but so far no infection; penciling it as a win — this second week of 10 reviews per day would bring my laptop breaking and a toddler too sick to go to camp for three hours in the morning. If you’re a fan of understatement, I’ll tell you last week was easier to make happen.

Nevertheless, we persist, you and I. I don’t know if, when I get my computer back, it will even have all of these records on the desktop or if the hard-drive-bed-shitting that seems to have taken place will erase that along with such inconsequentials as years of writing and photos of The Pecan dating back to his birth, but hey, that desktop space was getting cleared one way or the other. You know what? I don’t want to think about it.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Paradise Lost, At the Mill

Paradise Lost At the Mill

If Paradise Lost are trying to hold onto some sense of momentum, who can blame them? How many acts who’ve been around for 33 years continue to foster the kind of quality the Yorkshire outfit brought to 2020’s studio outing, Obsidian (review here)? Like, four? Maybe? So if they want to put out two live records in the span of three months — At the Mill follows March’s Gothic: Live at Roadburn 2016, also on Nuclear Blast — one isn’t inclined to hold a grudge, and even less so given the 16-song setlist they offer up in what was the captured audio from a livestream last Fall, spanning the bulk of their career and including requisite highlights from ’90s-era landmarks Gothic and Icon as well as Obsidian features “Fall From Grace,” “Ghosts” and “Darker Thoughts,” which opened the studio LP but makes a rousing finisher for At the Mill.

Paradise Lost on Facebook

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Alastor, Onwards and Downwards

alastor onwards and downwards

The second long-player from Sweden’s Alastor is a surprising but welcome sonic turn, pulling back from the grimness of 2018’s Slave to the Grave (review here) in favor of an approach still murky and thick in its bottom end, but sharper in its songwriting focus and bolder melodically right from the outset on “The Killer in My Skull.” They depart from the central roll for an acoustic stretch in “Pipsvängen” after “Nightmare Trip” opens side B and just before the nine-minute title-track lumbers out its descent into the deranged, but even there the four-piece hold the line of obvious attention to songcraft, instrumental and vocal phrasing, and presentation of their sound. Likewise, the spacious nod on “Lost and Never Found” caps with a shorter and likewise undeniable groove, more Sabbath than the Queens of the Stone Age rush of “Death Cult” earlier, but with zero dip in quality. This takes them to a different level in my mind.

Alastor on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

Zahn, Zahn

Zahn Zahn

Its noise-rock angularity and tonal bite isn’t going to be for everyone, but there’s something about Zahn‘s unwillingness to cooperate, their unwillingness to sit still, that makes their self-titled debut a joy of a run. Based in Berlin and comprised of Felix Gebhard (Einstürzende Neubauten keyboards) as well as drummer Nic Stockmann and bassist Chris Breuer (both of HEADS.), the eight-tracker shimmers on “Tseudo,” punkjazzes on lead cut “Zerrung,” goes full krautrock drone to end side A on “Gyhum” and still has more weirdness to offer on the two-minute sunshine burst of “Schranck,” “Lochsonne Schwarz,” “Aykroyd” and finale “Staub,” all of which tie together in one way or another around a concept of using space-in-mix and aural crush while staying loway to the central pattern of the drums. “Aykroyd” is brazen in showing the teeth of its guitar work, and that’s a pretty solid encapsulation of Zahn‘s attitude across the board. They’re going for it. You can take the ride if you want, but they’re going either way.

Zahn on Facebook

Crazysane Records website

 

Greynbownes, Bones and Flowers

Greynbownes bones and flowers

Bones and Flowers is a welcome return from Czech Republic-based heavy rockers Greynbownes, who made their debut with 2018’s Grey Rainbow From Bones (review here), and sees the trio foster a progressive heavy flourish prone to Doors-y explosive vocal brooding tempered with Elder-style patience in the guitar lines and rhythmic fluidity while there continues to be both an underlying aggressive crunch and a sense of Truckfighters-ish energy in “Dream Seller,” some blues there and in “Dog’s Eyes” and opener “Wolves” besides, and a willful exploratory push on “Burned by the Sun and Swallowed by the Sea,” which serves as a worthy centerpiece ahead of the rush that comprises much of “Long Way Down.” Further growth is evident in the spaciousness of “Flowers,” and “Star” feels like it’s ending the record with due ceremony in its largesse and character in its presentation.

Greynbownes on Facebook

Greynbownes on Bandcamp

 

Treebeard, Nostalgia

Treebeard Nostalgia

One can’t argue with Melbourne heavy post-rockers Treebeard‘s impulse to take the material from their prior two EPs, 2018’s Of Hamelin and 2019’s Pastoral, and put it together as a single full-length, but Nostalgia goes further in that they actually re-recorded, and in the case of a track like “The Ratchatcher,” partially reworked the songs. That makes the resultant eight-song offering all the more cohesive and, in relation to the prior versions, emphasizes the growth the band has undertaken in the last few years, keeping elements of weight and atmosphere but delivering their material with a sense of purpose, whether a give stretch of “8×0” is loud or quiet. Nostalgia effectively pulls the listener into its world, duly wistful on “Pollen” or “Dear Magdalena,” with samples adding to the breadth and helping to convey the sense of contemplation and melodic character. Above all things, resonance. Emotional and sonic.

Treebeard on Facebook

Treebeard on Bandcamp

 

Estrada Orchestra, Playground

Estrada Orchestra Playground

Estonian five-piece Estrada Orchestra recorded Playground on Nov. 21, 2020, and while I’m not 100 percent sure of the circumstances in which such a recording took place, it seems entirely possible given the breadth of their textures and the lonely ambience that unfurls across the 22-minute A-side “Playground Part 1” and the gradual manner in which it makes its way toward psychedelic kraut-drone-jazz there and in the more “active” “Playground Part 2 & 3” — the last part chills out again, and one speaks on very relative terms there — it’s entirely possible no one else was around. Either way, headphone-ready atmosphere persists across the Sulatron-issued LP, a lushness waiting to be closely considered and engaged that works outside of common structures despite having an underlying current of forward motion. Estrada Orchestra, who’ve been in operation for the better part of a decade and for whom Playground is their fifth full-length, are clearly just working in their own dimension of time. It suits them.

Estrada Orchestra on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Vestamaran, Bungalow Rex

Vestamaran Bungalow Rex

Even in the sometimes blinding sunshine of Vestamaran‘s debut album, Bungalow Rex, there is room for shades of folk and classic progressive rock throughout the summery 10-tracker, which makes easygoing vibes sound easy in a way that’s actually really difficult to pull off without sounding forced. And much to Vestamaran‘s credit, they don’t. Their songs are structured, composed, engaging and sometimes catchy, but decidedly unhurried, unflinchingly melodic and for all their piano and subtle rhythmic intricacy, mostly pretense-free. Even the snare sound on “Grustak” feels warm. Cuts like “Risky Pigeon” and “Cutest Offender” are playful, and “Solitude” and closer “Only for You” perhaps a bit moodier, but Vestamaran are never much removed from that central warmth of their delivery, and the abiding spirit of Bungalow Rex is sweet and affecting. This is a record that probably won’t get much hype but will sit with dedicated audience for more than just a passing listen. A record that earns loyalty. I look forward to more.

Vestamaran on Facebook

Apollon Records website

 

Low Flying Hawks, Fuyu

low flying hawks fuyu

Three records in, to call what Low Flying Hawks do “heavygaze” feels cheap. Such a tag neither encompasses the post-rock elements in the lush space of “Monster,” the cinematic flourish of “Darklands,” nor the black-metal-meets-desert-crunch-riffing-in-space at the end of “Caustic Wing” or the meditative, post-Om cavern-delia in the first half of closer “Nightrider,” never mind the synthy, screamy turn of Fuyu‘s title-track at the halfway point. Three records in, the band refuse to let either themselves or their listenership get too comfortable, either in heavy groove or march or atmosphere, and three records in, they’re willfully toying with style and bending the aspects of genre to their will. There are stretches of Fuyu that, in keeping with the rest of what the band do, border on overthought, but the further they go into their own progressive nuance, the more they seem to discover they want to do. Fuyu reportedly wraps a trilogy, but if what they do next comes out sounding wildly different, you’d have to give them points for consistency.

Low Flying Hawks on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

 

La Maquinaria del Sueño, Rituales de los Alucinados

la maquinaria del sueno rituales de los alucinados

Cult poetry on “Enterrado en la Oscuridad,” garage rock boogie “Ayahuasca” and classic, almost-surf shuffle are the first impressions Mexico City’s La Maquinaria del Sueño make on their debut full-length, Rituales de los Alucinados, and the three-piece only benefit from the push-pull in different directions as the seven-song LP plays out, jamming into the semi-ethereal on “Maldad Eléctrica” only to tip hat to ’60s weirdo jangle on “Mujer Cabeza de Cuervo.” Guitars scorch throughout atop swinging grooves in power trio fashion, and despite the differences in tone between them, “Enterré mis Dientes en el Desierto” and “Ángel de Fuego” both manage to make their way into a right on haze of heavy fuzz ahead of the motoring finisher “La Ninfa del Agua,” which underscores the live feel of the entire procession with its big crashout ending and overarching vitality. Listening to the chemistry between these players, it’s not a surprise they’ve been a band for the better part of a decade, and man, they make their riffs dance. Not revolutionary, but cool enough not to care.

La Maquinaria del Sueño on Facebook

LSDR Records on Bandcamp

 

Ananda Mida, Karnak

Ananda Mida Karnak

A three-tracker EP issued through drummer Max Ear‘s (also of OJM) own Go Down Records, Karnak features an instrumental take on a previously-vocalized cut — “Anulios,” from 2018’s Anodnatius (review here) — an eight-minute live jam with Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man sitting in on guitar, and a live version of the Conny Ochs-fronted “The Pilot,” which opened 2019’s Cathodnatius, the cover of which continues to haunt one’s dreams, and which finds the German singer-songwriter channeling his inner David Byrne in fascinating ways. An odds-and-ends release, maybe, but each of these songs is worth the minimal price of admission on its own, never mind topped as they are together with the much-less-horrifying art. If this is a reminder to listen to Anada Mida, it’s a happy one.

Ananda Mida on Facebook

Go Down Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Howling Giant, Rose City Band, The Tazers, Kavrila, Gateway, Bala, Tremor Ama, The Crooked Whispers, No Stone, Firefriend

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

You know what? We’re through the first week of the Quarterly Review as of this post. Not too bad. I feel like it’s been smooth going so far to such a degree that I’m even thinking about adding an 11th day comprised purely of releases that came my way this week and will invariably come in next week too. Crazy, right? Bonus day QR. We’ll see if I get there, but I’m thinking about it. That alone should tell you something.

But let me not get ahead of myself. Day five commence.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Howling Giant, Alteration

howling giant alteration

Let the story be that when the pandemic hit, Nashville’s Howling Giant took to the airwaves to provide comfort, character and a bit of ‘home’ — if one thinks of live performance as home — to their audience. With a steady schedule of various live streams on Twitch, some playing music, some playing D&D, the band engaged their listenership in a new and exciting way, finding a rare bright point in one of the darkest years of recent history. Alteration, a crisp four-song/20-minute EP, is born out of those streamed jams, with songs named by the band’s viewers/listeners — kudos to whoever came up with “Luring Alluring Rings” — and, being entirely instrumental from a band growing more and more focused on vocal arrangements, sound more like they’re on their way to being finished than are completely done. However, that’s also the point of the release, essentially to showcase unfinished works in progress that have emerged in a manner that nobody expected. It is another example from last year-plus that proves the persistence of creativity, and is all the more beautiful for that.

Howling Giant on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

 

Rose City Band, Earth Trip

Rose City Band Earth Trip

Vaguely lysergic, twanging with a non-chestbeating or jingoistic ’70s American singer-songwriter feel, Rose City Band‘s Earth Trip brings sentiment without bitterness in its songs, engaging as the title hints with nature in songs like “Silver Roses,” “In the Rain,” “Lonely Planes,” “Ramblin’ with the Day,” “Rabbit” and “Dawn Patrol.” An outlet for Ripley Johnson, also of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo, the “band” isn’t so much in Rose City Band, but there is some collaboration — pedal steel here and there, as on “Ramblin’ with the Day” — though it’s very much Johnson‘s own craft and performance at the core of this eight-song set. This is the third Rose City Band long-player in three years, but quickly as it may have come about, the tracks never feel rushed — hushed, if anything — and Johnson effectively casts himself in among the organic throughout the proceedings, making the listener feel nothing if not welcome to join the ramble.

Rose City Band on Facebook

Thrill Jockey Records website

 

The Tazers, Dream Machine

The Tazers Dream Machine

Johannesburg, South Africa’s The Tazers are suited to a short-release format, as their Dream Machine EP shows, bringing together four tracks with psychedelic precociousness and garage rock attitude to spare, with just an edge of classic heavy to keep things grooving. Their latest work opens with its languid and lysergic title-track, which sets up the shove of “Go Away” and the shuffle in “Lonely Road” — both under three and a half minutes long, with nary a wasted second in them, despite sounding purposefully like tossoffs — and the latter skirts the line of coming undone, but doesn’t, of course, but in the meantime sets up the almost proto-New Wave in the early going on “Around Town,” only later to give way to the band’s most engaging melody and a deceptively patient, gentle finish, which considering some of the brashness in the earlier tracks is a surprise. A pleasant one, though, and not the first the three-piece have brought forth by the time they get to the end of Dream Machine‘s ultra-listenable 16-minute run.

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The Tazers on Soundcloud

 

Kavrila, Rituals III

Kavrila Rituals III

Pressed in an ultra-limited edition of 34 tapes (the physical version also has a bonus track), Kavrila‘s Rituals III brings together about 16 minutes of heavy hardcore and post-hardcore, a thickened undertone giving something of a darker mood to the crunch of “Equality” as guitars are layered in subtly in a higher register, feeding into the urgency without competing with the drums or vocals. Opener “Sunday” works at more of a rush while “Longing” has more of a lurch at least to its outset before gradually elbowing its way into a more careening groove, but the bridge being built is between sludge and hardcore, and while the four-piece aren’t the first to build it, they do well here. If we’re picking highlights, closer “Elysium” has deft movement, intensity and atmosphere in kind, and still features a vocal rawness that pushes the emotional crux between the verses and choruses to make the transitions that much smoother. The ending fades out early behind those shouts, leaving the vocals stranded, calling out the song’s title into a stark emptiness.

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The Chinaskian Conspiracy on Bandcamp

 

Gateway, Flesh Reborn

gateway flesh reborn

Brutal rebirth. Robin Van Oyen is the lone figure behind Bruges, Belgium-based death-doom outfit Gateway, and Flesh Reborn is his first EP in three years. Marked out with guest guitar solos by M., the four-track/25-minute offering keeps its concentration on atmosphere as much as raw punishment, and while one would be correct to call it ‘extreme’ in its purpose and execution, its deathliest aspects aren’t just the growling vocals or periods of intense blast, but the wash of distortion that lays over the offering as a whole, from “Hel” through “Slumbering Crevasses,” the suitably twisting, later lurching “Rack Crawler” and the grandeur-in-filth 12-minute closing title-track, at which point the fullness of the consumption is revealed at last. Unbridled as it seems, this material is not without purpose and is not haphazard. It is the statement it intends to be, and its depths are shown to be significant as Van Oyen pulls you further down into them with each passing moment, finally leaving you there amid residual drone.

Gateway on Facebook

Chaos Records website

 

Bala, Maleza

Bala Maleza

Admirably punk in its dexterity, Bala‘s debut album, Maleza, arrives as a nine-track pummelfest from the Spanish duo of guitarist/vocalist Anx and drummer/vocalist V., thickened with sludgy intent and aggression to spare. The starts and stops of opener “Agitar” provide a noise-rock-style opening that hints at the tonal push to come throughout “Hoy No” — the verse melody of which seems to reinvent The Bangles — while the subsequent “X” reaches into greater breadth, vocals layered effectively as a preface perhaps to the later grunge of “Riuais,” which arrives ahead of the swaggering riff and harsh sneer of “Bessie” the lumbering finale “Una Silva.” Whether brooding in “Quieres Entrar” or explosive in its shove in “Cien Obstaculos,” Maleza offers stage-style energy with clarity of vision and enough chaos to make the anger feel genuine. There’s apparently some hype behind Bala, and fair enough, but this is legitimately one of the best debut albums I’ve heard in 2021.

Bala on Facebook

Century Media Records website

 

Tremor Ama, Beneath

Tremor Ama Beneath

French prog-fuzz five-piece Tremor Ama make a coherent and engaging debut with Beneath, a first full-length following up a 2017 self-titled EP release. Spacious guitar leads the way through the three-minute intro “Ab Initio” and into the subsequent “Green Fire,” giving a patient launch to the outing, the ensuing four songs of which grow shorter as they go behind that nine-minute “Green Fire” stretch. There’s room for ambience and intensity both in centerpiece “Eclipse,” with vocals echoing out over the building second half, and both “Mirrors” and “Grey” offer their moments of surge as well, the latter tapping into a roll that should have fans of Forming the Void nodding both to the groove and in general approval. Effectively tipping the balance in their sound over the course of the album as a whole, Tremor Ama showcase an all-the-more thoughtful approach in this debut, and at 30 minutes, they still get out well ahead of feeling overly indulgent or losing sight of their overarching mission.

Tremor Ama on Facebook

Tremor Ama on Bandcamp

 

The Crooked Whispers, Dead Moon Night

The Crooked Whispers Dead Moon Night

Delivered on multiple formats including as a 12″ vinyl through Regain Records offshoot Helter Skelter Productions, the bleary cultistry of The Crooked Whispers‘ two-songer Dead Moon Night also finds the Los Angeles-based outfit recently picked up by Ripple Music. If it seems everybody wants a piece of The Crooked Whispers, that’s fair enough for the blend of murk, sludge and charred devil worship the foursome offer with “Hail Darkness” and the even more gruesome “Galaxy of Terror,” taking the garage-doom rawness of Uncle Acid and setting against a less Beatlesian backdrop, trading pop hooks for classic doom riffing on the second track, flourishing in its misery as it is. At just 11 minutes long — that’s less than a minute for each inch of the vinyl! — Dead Moon Night is a grim forecast of things to come for the band’s deathly revelry, already showcased too on last year’s debut, Satanic Whispers (review here).

The Crooked Whispers on Facebook

Regain Records on Bandcamp

 

No Stone, Road into the Darkness

No Stone Road into the Darkness

Schooled, oldschool doom rock for denim-clad heads as foggy as the distortion they present, No Stone‘s debut album, Road into the Darkness, sounds like they already got there. The Rosario, Argentina, trio tap into some Uncle Acid-style garage doom vibes on “The Frayed Endings,” but the crash is harder, and the later 10-minute title-track delves deeper into psychedelia and grunge in kind, resulting in an overarching spirit that’s too weird to be anything but individual, however mmuch it might still firmly reside within the tenets of “cult.” If you were the type to chase down a patch, you might want to chase down a No Stone patch, as “Devil Behind” makes its barebones production feel like an aesthetic choice to offset the boogie to come in “Shadow No More,” and from post-intro opener “Bewitched” to the long fade of “The Sky is Burning,” No Stone balance atmosphere and songcraft in such a way as to herald future progress along this morose path. Maybe they are just getting on the road into the darkness, but they seem to be bringing that darkness with them on the way.

No Stone on Facebook

Ruidoteka Records on Bandcamp

 

Firefriend, Dead Icons

Firefriend Dead Icons

Dead Icons is the sixth full-length from Brazilian psychedelic outfit Firefriend, and throughout its 10 songs and 44 minutes, the band proffer marked shoegaze-style chill and a sense of space, fuzzy and molten in “Hexagonal Mess,” more desert-hued in “Spin,” jangly and out for a march on “Ongoing Crash.” “Home or Exile” takes on that question with due reach, and “Waves” caps with organ alongside the languid guitar, but moments like “Tomorrow” are singular and gorgeous, and though “Three Dimensional Sound Glitch” and “666 Fifth Avenue” border on playful, there’s an overarching melancholy to the flow, as engaging as it is. In its longest pieces — “Tomorrow” (6:05) and “One Thousand Miles High” (5:08) — the “extra” time is well spent in extending the trio’s reach, and while it’s safe to assume that six self-recorded LPs later, Firefriend know what they want to do with their sound, that thing feels amorphous, fleeting, transient somehow here, like a moving target. That speaks to ongoing growth, and is just one of Dead Icons‘ many strengths.

Firefriend on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz store

Little Cloud Records store

 

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Deathchant Premiere “Black Dirt” Video; Waste out Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

deathchant

Los Angeles rockers Deathchant release their second album, Waste, today on RidingEasy Records. As a follow-up to their 2019 self-titled debut, which came out through King Volume Records and Kozmik Artifactz — kudos to the band on their associations to-date; these are good backings to have — it is a seven-track outing full of arguments in its own favor. Be it the dirtied up proto-thrash of “Holy Roller” or the manner in which opener “Rails” — let’s assume they’re big fans of locomotive infrastructure — evolves from and devolves to psychedelic noise, galloping and bouncing in between like it ain’t no thing because in the end the universe gonna eat us all up anyhow, so here’s a hook while we can, the four-piece led by guitarist/vocalist T.J. Lemieux (who’s also worked with the revitalized Psychedelic Speed Freaks) bring cassette worthy skate-vibes to “Black Dirt” without saying a word about it, and after unleashing their inner Buzzo later in “Holy Roller,” they make a centerpiece of “Gallows,” with John Belino joining Lemieux in winding lead work — count bassist George Camacho in as well, at least at the start — while Colin Fahrner brings the propulsion on drums. Shove, shove, shove. Move forward. There’s no time to… what’s the word again?

“Waste” — which follows “Gallows” in leading off side B — answers back to “Holy Roller” in its metallic bite and mastery of urgency-born-of-stretched-noise duality, and “Plague” is a Lizzyian victory lap of harmonized lead guitar set to a backdrop of modern West deathchant wasteCoast stonerism, echoed shouts calling to mind Saviours, Red Fang and any number of others who, if you invited them to your house, would probably wreck up the place, apologize for doing so, and then keep doing it. Like “Rails” before it, “Waste” also gives itself over to noise, this time harsher feedback from which “Plague” bursts, and its own crashout comes with a shorter stretch of noise in front of closer “Maker.”

I don’t know if those elements are what Lemieux is talking about in emphasizing the band’s reliance on improv — there’s no shortage of live feel throughout, and if some of these solos and stuff like that were off the cuff, that’s easy enough to believe — but Deathchant largely hold to the basic tenets of verse/chorus across Waste, and even in the instrumental finale, there’s a sense of plot to the procession of movements. Whether that’s made up at the time it was recorded or not, it exists, and it’s to the band’s credit that one way or the other their material comes with a sense of the spontaneous along with perhaps more considered elements, even if that consideration came in overdubs afterward.

That’s a question of process, and while we’re giving credit to Deathchant on presentation, it’s worth including that the actual listening process of Waste invites precious little consideration of how it’s made beyond any dude-how’d-they-get-that-tone musings. This is heavy rock and roll, classic edged and coated in grit, no pretense, touching on metal but not hewn to aggro tenets. Not so much playing to style as stylistically playing. Fucking cool, man. If Deathchant were on the fest, you’d want to show up. They’ve got a killer half-hour set right here, and they only sound willing to bash you over the head with it if called upon to do so.

Right on.

“Black Dirt” video premieres below.

Deathchant, “Black Dirt” official video premiere

Waste will be available on LP, CD and download on June 25th, 2021 via RidingEasy Records.

Though you wouldn’t be able to tell by the concise structures and well-crafted songs, a lot of Deathchant’s music is improvised, both in the studio and live. That’s not to suggest their songs are jammy — they’re very tightly organized compositions. But the four musicians have that special musical telepathy that allows them to keep the song structures open-ended.

“Improv is a huge thing for us and always has been,” singer/guitarist T.J. Lemieux says. “The musical freedom to look at the other dudes in the band and be able to take things wherever we want to go is magical. I like the feel of flying off the hinges.”

Likewise, the band itself is similarly amorphous in its membership. “We run the band with an open door. No lineup is definitive,” Lemieux explains. On Waste, the lineup is: Lemieux, George Camacho on bass, Colin Fahrner on drums, and John Belino on second guitar.

Waste was recorded live in a rented cabin in the mountains of Big Bear, CA. “We packed a big-ass van and set up in the living room and kitchen,” Lemieux says. “Tracked it live, with overdubs after.” The whole album was recorded over two separate weekends, engineered by Steve Schroeder, who also recorded the band’s 2019 self-titled debut album.

Artist: Deathchant
Album: Waste
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: June 25, 2021
01. Rails
02. Black Dirt
03. Holy Roller
04. Gallows
05. Waste
06. Plague
07. Maker

Deathchant on Bandcamp

Deathchant on Instagram

RidingEasy Records website

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Stream Review: Fatso Jetson & All Souls, ‘Virtual Volumes’

Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

fatso jetson all souls virtual volumes

Over the course of the last year-plus, there have been livestreams from practice spaces, concert halls, city parks, national parks, recreational vehicles, and of course, (mostly) empty venues. There have been one-offs and multi-day festivals. We’ve been up, we’ve been down, inside, out, all around. Multi-camera, shot-on-phone, sometimes both. All of it. I’m sure if you sat own and thought for a couple minutes you’d be able to come up with something no one had done yet, but it would take some effort.

It was kind of refreshing to tune into ‘Virtual Volumes’ this weekend and find it tossing off concerns of novelty. This was bands hitting it, period. Total Annihilation Studios was the setting, and Fatso Jetson and All Souls indeed hit it, one and then the other. The proceedings were filmed in March, as All Souls‘ guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos recently discussed here, and with a minimum of personnel involved made even one fewer by the fact that the two outfits share drummer Tony Tornay.

Tornay has pulled precisely this double-duty on tour before, and it’s safe to assume he got a drink of water or something between sets, even if that required momentary mask removal. Hard times, folks.

And not to sound flip about it either, because over 600,000 people have died in this country alone and the plague’s still going on even amid vaccines and reopenings and all. Livestreams never took the place of shows and shame on you if you thought they might, but they have served dual noble purposes in letting audiences support and engage with artists and helping artists with new work promote that work and not completely lose momentum owing to a breakdown of the touring infrastructure. I’ve felt bad for a lot of people in the last 15 months, among them bands with really good records who can’t do a damn thing with them.

To wit, All Souls. Their ‘Virtual Volumes’ set — well shot with multiple cameras and cool projection effects on a white-sheet background and featuring sound worthy of the live album they’ll release hopefully any minute now — follows on the heels of their 2020 second album, Songs for the End of the World (review here), which just deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I don’t know how else to say it. I can slather on and on about the emotive weight of All Souls‘ songs, and certainly that’s resonant in the version of “You Just Can’t Win” they brought to the stream after the new song “Who Holds the Answer” — let alone fucking “Winds” — along with due tonal crunch. I can talk about the melodies, the craft, the nuance present even as they introduced new guitarist Matt Price (Behold! the Monolith), but the bottom line remains the same.

I don’t mind saying it bums me out to see bands do awesome things and not get a commensurate response. It’s part of why I’ve spent the last 12 and a half years doing this. Watching All Souls tear into “Sentimental Rehash” from the new album was just a reminder though of the fate of those who lie between styles. Too punk for rockers, too rock for punkers, too this and that.

Fuck that. They’re so good. People don’t know. How many bands are you gonna sit and watch play with masks on as a part of your Saturday and come out of it with no regrets? All Souls twisting around the leads of “Time Bomb” from the first record — 2018’s self-titled (review here) — almost frenetic but with Aguilar‘s voice cutting through that torrent in a melancholy, raw human presence. They well earn the fire and exploding lights at the finish. Psychedelic punk would be lucky if this was psychedelic punk.

Hilariously interspliced with some introductory vintage photos of Fatso Jetson? Three hotdogs in wrap-around rolls. And, those included, kind of told the story of the band over a couple minutes, from the raw desert trio of guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli, bassist Larry Lalli and Tony Tornay on drums to the inclusion of Dino Lalli (now with a shaved head) on guitar, Vince Meghrouni on sax and so on, and eventually up to the moment, capping with shots of them tuning at Total Annihilation and masked outside. The video itself, mellow, black and white, Larry Lalli in a Karma to Burn shirt, unassuming. They opened with “Monoxide Dreams” from 2010’s Archaic Volumes (discussed here, review here), and held to that vibe throughout, running under half an hour like All Souls before them, but spending their time well.

As far as I can tell — for the Fatso Jetson catalog is a vast and many-storied thing — “Drifting off to Storybook Deth” was a new song, and it built to a lumbering psychedelic head with grace that came through fully in the studio setting, the two guitars intertwining, Dino closed eyes, in the zone, Mario‘s nose poking out of his bandana mask (soon pulled back up), vocals echoing, Larry and Tony holding it down up the middle. “Living All Over You” featured on the band’s stellar 2014 split with Herba MateEarly Shapes (review here), and fit right in with the procession, subdued and melodic, and through “Long Deep Breaths,” the four-piece maintained the spirit of the thing. No lack of dynamic, you understand — even where not by blood, these guys are family — but weaving in gentler fashion through volume changes and sand-psych complexity.

A blowout finish was welcome in “Dream Homes” from 2016’s Idle Hands (review here) — quick but effective in rounding out with a reminder that punk’s the root beneath it all, whatever jazzy weirdness and quirk they might toss in along with it. There’s a quick minute of residual movement after the song ends — leftover rhythmic tension — and then the credits roll. Thanks for coming, drive safe.

I’ll spare you wax poetry about the persistence of human creativity in time of plague. You’ve heard it all in a million needless thinkpieces rendered with careful, hyper-literary eloquence. Blech. Give me rock and roll, please. I’ve seen Fatso Jetson. I’ve never seen All Souls, but I’d like to. This wasn’t a gig, but it was welcome, and it gave me another excuse to write about these bands and to watch them play, and I’m thankful for that. If livestreams are a marker of our times, one could do a lot fucking worse.

Fatso Jetson & All Souls, ‘Virtual Volumes’ teaser

All Souls on Facebook

All Souls on Twitter

All Souls on Instagram

All Souls on Bandcamp

All Souls website

Fatso Jetson on Facebook

Fatso Jetson on Twitter

Fatso Jetson on Instagram

Fatso Jetson website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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Solar Haze Premiere “The Solar Age” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

solar haze

Los Angeles-based trio Solar Haze release their new EP, The Solar Age, on July 16 through Metal Assault Records. I’ll be blunt: it’s a good time. They’re too far south to be a part of the whole Pacific Northwest party-rock thing in Portland, but they’re definitely all the way up for throwing down. Not as psyched out or malevolent as Mountain Tamer — whose sticker makes a cameo on a shovelhead in the video premiering below — but with a tonal crunch in the guitars of Stephen Falla and Ross Cowan that lets you understand where the two outfits would be friends. The Solar Age runs three tracks and 17 minutes and nine of those are dedicated to “Terror of the Deep,” which closes out. Side A, if you’re thinking of it as a 10″, brings the title-track and “Fortress Will Fall.” Both are a blast.

The title-track opens and arrives with immediately respectable chicanery. There’s fuzz being kicked around, but it’s also kind of hard to ignore that the central riff comes across like Slayer played at about 80 percent speed — if you have a moment, please let me tell solar haze the solar ageyou sometime about my concept cover band, Slowyer — which they liken to an Iron Maiden influence and I’m not inclined to argue. It’s a current of metal one way or the other, but the chug in the chorus brings to mind early aughts Small Stone Records-style drunken fuckall, and the energy that runs throughout is infectious. The song itself is about five minutes long, pushed forward with due force thanks to Ryan Michael Falla‘s drumming, and shifts into a more winding section to set up its guitar solo in the second half, but is never too far from the hook. That’s a fitting setup for “Fortress Will Fall,” which is even more straightforward, punkish in spirit and insistence. Again, they’re having fun so you’re having fun. And if you’re like me and you’re the kind of person who says things like, “Not really a big fan of fun,” give it a shot anyway. It’s important to try new things.

Of course, the proceedings slam headfirst into a bigtime tempo slowdown for “Terror of the Deep.” What, you thought Solar Haze were gonna write a nine-minute track about a monster under the ocean and not doom out the riff? Please. The methodical chug and aggro vocal reminds of earliest Sleep and also C.O.C. and a bunch of other raw mid-’90s stonerized punk, but there’s room for some psych in there, and the trio take advantage, mellowing the end and adding a sense of space earlier on as well, not to flesh it out needlessly, but to hint at their willingness to let complexity blossom in their sound over time. In following up their 2019 self-titled debut LP and last year’s “Burn the Light” single, they give a resonant sample of who they are as a group to anyone who might be looking to get on board. They make it easy to do so.

All the more with the video for “The Solar Age.” Note the Necronomicon making an appearance. Always nice to see. There’s beers, jams, sunshine. Loosen up for a couple minutes and enjoy yourself.

Some comment from the band follows below:

Solar Haze, “The Solar Age” video premiere

Solar Haze on “The Solar Age”:

We’re excited to release our first music video to coincide with the pre-order launch of our upcoming EP, The Solar Age. First impressions are everything and we couldn’t be happier with how this video captures the spirit and energy of Solar Haze.

This video channels the perfect blend of Iron Maiden / Red Fang with some Evil-Dead-inspired horror, ultimately creating an experience that blends heavy riffs with heavier humor. Thank you for checking out our music and we look forward to playing this song for you live!”

The official release date for The Solar Age EP is slated for July 16, 2021 on Metal Assault Records.

The Solar Age track listing:
1. The Solar Age (4:57)
2. Fortress Will Fall (3:50)
3. Terror Of The Deep (9:00)
Total Runtime: 17:47

In celebration of their new release, SOLAR HAZE will perform at “Blunt Force Trauma Fest,” a virtual mini festival experience presented by Ebony Jeanette PR & Metal Assault Records streaming July 16th via Youtube.com/ebonyjeanette. More information about the Blunt Force Trauma Fest can be found via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/2736782233280507/

SOLAR HAZE is:
Guitar/Vocals/Bass Guitar: Stephen Falla
Guitar: Ross Cowan
Drums/Percussion: Ryan Michael Falla

Solar Haze on Facebook

Solar Haze on Instagram

Solar Haze on Bandcamp

Metal Assault Records on Facebook

Metal Assault Records on Instagram

Metal Assault Records on Bandcamp

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Low Flying Hawks Post “Subatomic Sphere”; Fuyu out Aug. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Somewhere out there in the Melvinsian orbit soar Low Flying Hawks, whose third album, Fuyu, will be issued in August through Magnetic Eye Records. The follow-up to 2017’s Genkaku (review here) and 2016’s Kofuku (review here) continues the theme of Japanese-language titles — their 2019 EP, Anxious Ghosts, was a departure in that regard — and as information has gradually trickled out about who the initials-only core duo of the band is and the theme around which they’re working in their material — Sisyphus, who knew? — the plot only seems to thicken the more the riffs spread outward. “Subatomic Sphere,” the new single and second track off the record, offers breadth far and wide.

If this is the end of a trilogy, then perhaps also the beginning of something new. I don’t know, but there’s a lot of info to dig into if you’re up for that and of course the song and both came in from the PR wire:

low flying hawks fuyu

LOW FLYING HAWKS release first single ‘Subatomic Sphere’ and details of new full-length “FUYU”

Preorders: http://lnk.spkr.media/lowflyinghawks-fuyu

Mexican-American doomgazers LOW FLYING HAWKS have released the first single ‘Subatomic Sphere’ taken from their forthcoming third full-length “Fuyu”, which will arrive in stores on August 27.

With their third full-length “Fuyu”, which means “winter” in Japanese, LOW FLYING HAWKS are completing their long-planned trilogy based on the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphos, King of Corinth, who was cruelly punished by the Olympian gods to eternally push a massive bolder up on a hill – only to see it slip and roll down again every time he neared the top.

As on their previous releases, LOW FLYING HAWKS offer a refined musical vision of their individual melange, which might be tentatively called doomgaze with a measure of stoner rock, a knife-tip of sludge, and a healthy pinch of drone. Following the album title’s seasonal theme, listeners will encounter a new darker undertone in the band’s sound that often appears to be extremely heavy and hovering nearly weightless at the same time.

LOW FLYING HAWKS were founded by a pair of guitarists/multi-instrumentalists known by the aliases EHA and AAL. Throughout the band’s existence, this core duo has been supported by a renowned rhythm section in the form of THE MELVINS drummer Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn from MR. BUNGLE on bass.

Right from the start, the concept was to illuminate the myth of Sisyphos by constituting three major cornerstones, which are exemplified by Japanese expressions.

With debut album “K?fuku” (2016), LOW FLYING HAWKS set the first milestone with the Japanese term for “surrendering to what is happening”, meaning to try being happy with whatever has been given by the circumstances along the lines of “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. This was followed in 2017 by “Genkaku”, meaning “hallucinations”, on which the duo explored how a sense of understanding can grow out of spiraling confusion. In a shorter interlude, the 2019 EP “Anxious Ghosts” complemented the concept by talking about the anxieties involved in the whole process.

Now, LOW FLYING HAWKS have reached the third cornerstone. “Fuyu” relates the despair of nearly reaching the top once again and realising that the circle continues. It depicts the wheel of life and its ups and downs. Whenever happy and confident that the top has been reached, it all slides downhill again. This means that we have to try to find meaning and pleasure in the process instead of hoping and waiting for that happy ending that will never be reached as long as life continues. The band quotes French absurdist philosopher and literature Nobel price laureate Albert Camus, whose main essay is tellingly titled “Le Mythe de Sisyphe”: “There is no sun without shadow and it is essential to know the night.”

“Fuyu” witnesses LOW FLYING HAWKS concluding their album trilogy on a sometimes dark but always thoughtful note, which makes the most of their subtle and cinematic unique style between doom, drone, shoegaze, sludge, and stoner rock.

Tracklist
1. Kuro
2. Subatomic Sphere
3. Monster
4. Midnight
5. Fuyu
6. Darklands
7. Solar Wind
8. Caustic Wing
9. Winter Star
10. Nightrider

Line-up
EHA – vocals, guitars
AAL – guitars, backing vocals
Dale Crover – drums
Trevor Dunn – bass

Guest musicians
Violins: Martha Domínguez Henkel, Luis Sergio Hernández
Cellos: Luz del Carmen Pastor y Valentín Mirkov
Opera singer: Martha Domínguez Henkel

Recorded & mixed by Toshi Kasai
Mastered by John Golden

Artwork & Layout by Luke Insect

https://www.facebook.com/Lowflyinghawks-1626755734268513/
https://lowflyinghawks.bandcamp.com/releases
http://magneticeyerecords.merchnow.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords
http://store.merhq.com/

Low Flying Hawks, “Subatomic Sphere”

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Video Interview: Meg Castellanos & Tony Aguilar of All Souls on Streaming, Writing, the End of the World and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on June 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

all souls (Photo by Memo Villasenor)

On June 18, All Souls will oversee the airing of their ‘Virtual Volumes’ livestream. I know, we all miss shows and streams aren’t the same. Save it. They took the time to make the thing, even went so far as to make it their first gig with new guitarist Matt Price (Behold! the Monolith), and it’s awesome and not five hours long, so yeah, you can squeeze it into your busy life, trust me. They split the digital bill with Fatso Jetson, with whom they just so happen to share drummer Tony Tornay.

All Souls was founded by guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist/backing vocalist Meg Castellanos years after the putting to rest of their prior outfit together, Totimoshi, and with the acoustic-and-dance duo Alma Sangre between. Aguilar counts Alma Sangre, in which he sung in Spanish and in Mexican folk traditional styles, as pivotal to the development of All Souls, which indeed brings more melodic nuance to the heavy rock foundation that one otherwise might call carried over from Totimoshi. The bottom line, it all ties together.

all souls fatso jetson virtual volumes

The band have the bulk of a third album finished — also the owners of Eastside Rehearsal in Los Angeles, they spent lockdown in otherwise unoccupied rehearsal rooms writing with Tornay when they might’ve been on tour; Price had yet to join but is adding to what was done as a trio — and are hoping to record before the end of the year. I’m also hoping that happens, because 2020’s Songs for the End of the World (review here) and their 2018 self-titled debut (review here) are resonant joys and emotive to such a degree that I was somewhat surprised when Aguilar talked about the process of recording the live stream as being more of an analog to live shows, since he tends to lose himself in the music more than feed off audience energy anyway. For someone who — even masked as he is in ‘Virtual Volumes’; they recorded in March and Castellanos was the only one who’d been vaccinated — is so expressive, I genuinely thought the opposite would be the case.

I am a fan of All Souls, even more for having done this interview. Accordingly, I had a lot I wanted to talk to them about. Actually even more than is in the video. I had wanted to talk about the Josh Graham video for “Winds” but decided to pull the question when I realized that all I wanted to do was a Chris Farley-style “that was awesome” kind of thing. Incidentally though, it was awesome. And so is the recent ‘Jam in the Van’ session that was posted last month that you can see below.

One way or the other, this was a fun interview this past Saturday at 9:30PM, when under normal circumstances I’d most likely have been in bed because I’m just that lame. Thanks for reading and/or watching.

Enjoy:

All Souls Interview with Meg Castellanos & Tony Aguilar, June 5, 2021

All Souls‘ ‘Virtual Volumes’ stream from Total Annihilation Studios in Los Angeles airs June 18. Tix and merch at Livefrom.events. Songs for the End of the World has been waiting for you since its release last Fall. That and the ‘Jam in the Van’ performance discussed above are right here for your convenience.

All Souls, Orange Jam/Jam in the Van

All Souls, Songs for the End of the World (2020)

All Souls on Facebook

All Souls on Twitter

All Souls on Instagram

All Souls on Bandcamp

All Souls website

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